SHIPPING | One industry, one voice

LLOYD’S Register chief executive Richard Sadler is spearheading a campaign to establish a united front for the global maritime industry by bringing together major international associations with the common purpose of improving the image of shipping.

Every sector of the industry needs to join forces to both promote and defend shipping on the world stage, Mr Sadler said when unveiling his ambitious plan to create a single voice on key issues such as the environment and seafarer welfare.

The over-arching goal would be to raise the profile of shipping and create greater awareness of its vital contribution to commerce, and how that filters down to the well-being of individuals in every corner of the world. The project could even include TV advertising.

The proposal has parallels with Maritime UK, an umbrella organisation that represents six shipping and ports associations in Britain including the Baltic Exchange, Chamber of Shipping, UK Major Ports Group, and the Passenger Shipping Association in dealings with regulators and policymakers. Maritime UK was formally launched last year in a bid to coordinate and strengthen the voice of UK shipping after politicians had complained about the confusion of being lobbied by too many different interest groups.

Mr Sadler is convinced that the fragmented nature of shipping’s public relations efforts at a global level is of equal concern, and that much more needs to be done to raise the profile of the industry and impress upon both governments and the general public what a key part it plays.

“This is a personal crusade,” he told Lloyd’s List.

“I am frustrated that we (as an industry) do not do as well as we should in getting our message across.”

Associations that Mr Sadler hopes will support the initiative include Intertanko, Intercargo, BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, the World Shipping Council, and the International Association of Classification Societies.

He stresses that there is no intention of usurping the remit of any of those organisations. Nor would the single voice idea that Mr Sadler has in mind overlap with the Round Table of international shipping associations that focuses on regulatory matters and technical issues.

Instead, Mr Sadler said he wants the industry to speak with one voice on the role of shipping and the people who work in the industry, rather than about the hardware.

The response from those organisations and companies approached so far has been very positive, according to Mr Sadler who hopes Lloyd’s Register will be able to act as a catalyst to move the project forward

“That would be a great contribution during our 250th anniversary year,” he said at LR’s Posidonia reception attended by more than 2,000 guests to mark the occasion.

Earlier, the idea of championing the industry on a collective basis had been discussed during a meeting of LR’s Hellenic Advisory Committee at which Mr Sadler had spelled out the need for shipping to have a shared voice in order to be better represented at international level.

‘It’s been said before that the industry needs one voice to stand up for shipping. This is a very high priority, what I am saying is not new and it’s not going to be easy, but we need to make this happen. Our vital industry needs to better protect and promote itself against repeated reactive, and increasingly regional, governance while still encouraging the innovation that we need,” he urged.

In Britain, Maritime UK took several years to set up, wth some participants uneasy about losing their individual identities. But a manifesto was finally launched in early 2009 setting out common goals. The chairmanship is on a revolving basis, although at one stage LR’s chairman David Moorhouse had been approached about being a permanent chairman.

Unless the shipping industry takes action to coordinate its message, “we will be constantly undermined by the political authorities,” Mr Sadler warned.

“This is a fantastic industry,” he said, but one that does not receive the recognition it deserves.

“We have a great story to tell,” he continued.

But unless industry bodies pull together rather then lobby on an individual basis, “we will not get that across.”

Comment

Sadler’s initiative is doubtless welcome. However, it leaves the associations that represent the ‘human element’ out of the effort, and this is regrettable — especially if one remembers that this is the Year of the Seafarer.

Without the men and women of the sea, any push for recognition will have limited success, at best.

The shipping industry leaves the man behind, yet again. And then they complain about the shortage of seafarers…

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